This memorandum is in response to your request for our opinion on the interpretation
of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) policy relating to protective filing
dates in situations where third party organizations (e.g., Chamberlin E~), acting
as agents for hospitals, assist hospitalized claimants in completing SSA applications
for benefits, and then mail the application signed by the claimant to the local field
office for processing. You also indicated that in some instances, the applicant has
been discharged from the hospital by the time the field office receives the application.
Specifically, you have inquired whether such an application would be considered filed
as of (1) the date SSA received the signed application in the mail, or the postmark
date, whichever is most advantageous to the claimant, pursuant to GN 00204.007(B)(3); or (2) the date the applicant signed the application in the hospital pursuant
to GN 00204.010(F)(1). For purposes of this memorandum, we will assume that: the applicant is a proper
applicant under GN 00204.003; the application form is appropriate under GN 00204.002 and GN 00205.001; and the application was properly signed and not otherwise deficient under GN 00204.001 and GN 00204.002. Your query does not involve a situation where a third party (e.g., the hospital’s
agent) is simply trying to establish a protective filing date for the applicant. See GN 00204.013.
Based on the information you provided to us and our research, it is our opinion that
the provision in GN 00204.010(F)(1) pertaining to hospitals is inapplicable to the issue at hand because an application
properly signed by the claimant and mailed to SSA does not meet the definition of
a protective writing and, therefore, cannot establish a protective filing date. See
Instead, GN 00204.007(B) controls this situation. Thus, the appropriate application date is the date the
application is received. See GN 00204.007. If the application is received by U.S. mail, then the application date is the date
it was postmarked, but if the postmark is missing or illegible, then we presume a
receipt date 5 days earlier than the actual receipt date. See GN 00204.007(B)(3).
A. The Application Filing Date is the Date SSA Received the Application
SSA policy provides that an application filing date is the earlier of (1) the date
a valid application is received at one of the locations in GN 00204.006 GN 00204.006, provides, in relevant part, that Aan application or written statement
of intent to claim benefits may be filed at: any SSA office; [or] a hospital provider
of services to prevent a loss of Hospital Insurance (HI) coverage for persons age
65 or older. or (2) the protective filing date. See GN 00204.007(B)(1).
As a general rule, if SSA receives an application or protective filing by U.S. mail
[T]he postmark date is the receipt date if use of that date is more advantageous to
the claimant than the actual receipt date. If the U.S. postmark is missing or illegible,
presume a receipt date 5 days before the actual receipt date. If evidence exists indicating
that the applicant mailed the application less than 5 days before it is received,
presume that the individual mailed the application on that date Y.
GN 00204.007(B); See also GN 00204.010(A)(2).
B. Protective Filings Establish an Application Date Earlier than the Date SSA Receives
the Application For Benefits
It is SSA’s policy to establish the earliest application filing date to which a claimant
is entitled. See GN 00204.007(D). To that end, SSA allows a claimant to submit a Awritten statement of intent to
file for Title II, Title VIII, or Title XVI benefits or [make] an oral inquiry about
Title XVI benefits at one of the locations described in GN 00204.006 before submitting a completed and signed application. See GN 00204.010(A)(1) (emphasis supplied). The purpose of the protective filing date is to provide
a date for an application for benefits that is before the actual application filing
A claimant can establish a protective filing date for his application that is earlier
than the application receipt date if the following criteria are met:
1. There must be a written statement that shows the writer’s intent to claim benefits
either for himself or on behalf of another;
2. The written statement must be signed by the claimant, a third party, or an SSA
3. The person claiming benefits or a proper applicant must sign an application for
benefits. SSA must receive the application within the Title II 6-month protective
filing closeout period or the Title XVI 60-day protective filing period.
4. With the exception of limited situations, For information on SSA’s policy for processing
a benefits claim for a claimant who dies before filing an application, see GN 00204.005. the claimant must be alive when the application is filed.
See GN 00204.010(B); see also 20 C.F.R. '' 404.610, 404.630, 416.340 (2010). A protective filing is established
on the date the SSA receives a written statement of intent to file for Title II, Title
VIII, or Title XVI benefits See GN 00204.010(A)(1). If a claimant does not follow the above-listed procedures, the applicant cannot
benefit from a protective filing date, and SSA considers the application to be filed
on the date it is received. See GN 00204.007(D).
1. Documents that may serve as protective filings
The POMS provide a non-exclusive list of documents that may serve as protective filings. See GN 00204.010(F)(1). Examples include the following:
A letter asking about benefit rights.
A Title II or Title XVI application that names an individual other than the applicant
(e.g., a spouse or child), which serves as a protective filing for that individual.
A Title II unsigned application.
(e.g., a spouse or child), which serves as a protective filing for that individual.
(If a closeout notice was issued for an earlier protective filing date or there is
no earlier protective filing date, the date the SSA employee completes a Title II
application may serve to protect the claimant’s filing date if the signature requirements
of GN 00204.010(B)(2) are met.)
See GN 00204.010(F)(1). If the writing satisfies the criteria of GN 00204.010(B), then the protective filing date is the date SSA receives the writing. See GN 00204.007(B); GN 00204.010(A)(2). These examples are consistent with SSA’s policy of ensuring that a claimant
has the earliest application date to which he is entitled.
2. The Hospital Protective Filing
A written statement of intent to file that is filed with a hospital, e.g., an admittance
form or admission record, is another document that may serve as a protective filing,
under the following conditions:
The claimant is a patient in the hospital;
The hospital provides services covered by hospital insurance (Part A) under the Medicare
A valid application is not pending; and
The statement is sent to the SSA.
See GN 00204.010(F)(1); see also 20 C.F.R. ' 404.632. Although it is not clear from the POMS, it appears that
this provision originally may have been intended to ensure that a claimant could prevent
the loss of hospital insurance coverage under the Medicare provisions of the Social
Security Act simply by giving notice of an intent to seek such benefits while in the
hospital. See GN 00204.006. Based on your inquiry, we assume that this provision has been applied in the context
of Title II and Title XVI benefits.
As set forth above, hospital admittance forms or admission records are examples of
written statements that may contain the hospitalized claimant’s expression of intent
to file for Social Security benefits under this provision. See GN 00204.010(F)(1). These records have an indicia of reliability because they are generally filled
out contemporaneously by the hospital’s medical and/or administrative staff when the
patient provides the statement of intent to file. SSA has concluded that such records
are acceptable, and applies a protective date as of the Adate the individual files
the statement with the hospital. See GN 00204.010(F)(1); see also 20 C.F.R.404.632.
In order for a writing to be a protective writing, it must satisfy the four criteria
in GN 00204.010(B), listed above. See GN 00204.010(F)(1). A key aspect of that inquiry is whether the writing contains an expression
of intent on the part of the writer to claim benefits for himself/herself or on behalf
of another, which contemplates future action. See GN 00204.010(B)(1). The claimant (or proper applicant) is given additional time to take that action
as long as he submits a proper protective writing. See GN 00204.010(A)(3). The protective writing will avoid the potential loss of benefits that may
result as long as a claimant files an application subsequent to the initial contact
with SSA. See GN 00204.010(A).
The enumerated list of documents that may serve as protective writings is instructive.
Although the list is clearly not all-inclusive, it does not state that a properly
signed application may serve as a protective filing for the claimant. A completed
application for benefits, by its terms, does not contemplate an intent to file in
the future. Instead, an application serves as a claim when signed and filed with SSA. See GN 00205.001(A)(2). As such, it does not meet the protective filing requirements of GN 00204.010(B)(1). Archived versions of GN 00204.010 make it clear that a protective writing was intended to protect a claimant’s filing
date when it was not possible to obtain a prescribed application on the day of the
first contact. See e.g., GN 00204.010 (Eff. Dates 11/26/99-3/18/02). Here, the date of the first contact between the applicant
and SSA is when SSA receives the completed application. Such action on the part of
the applicant obviates the need for a protective filing date, thus we need not apply
GN 00204.010 to this situation.
The analysis does not change simply because, as in your inquiry, a hospital’s agent
mails a benefits application for a patient. Notably, in that situation, the third-party
also acts as agent for the applicant. The intent to take future action is still lacking. See
GN 00204.010(B)(1). Also lacking is an indicia of reliability, as is found with hospital admittance
forms and admission records, in terms of SSA being able to accurately date the Aprotective@
writing. The absence of reliability in dating a protective writing is apparent in
the example you provided, where, on August 25, 2010, a local field office received
from Chamberlin E~ via U.S. mail a hospitalized claimant’s application that was dated
July 27, 2010. Without any objective evidence of when the claimant signed application,
the potential for fraud is great.
For the reasons stated above, it is our opinion that, in the circumstances described
in your inquiry, the completed application date is the date SSA received the application,
see GN 00204.007(B), regardless of whether a third-party organization that is affiliated with a hospital
mailed the application to SSA. To hold otherwise would defeat the purpose of the protective
filing date policy and allow a claimant to circumvent the filing date rules simply
by arranging to have the hospital’s agent mail the application to SSA.
Eric P. K~
Regional Chief Counsel,
By: Cathy M~
Assistant Regional Counsel